If Government is going to go open, crowd-sourced and platform (or Gov20 as SeeClickFix sees it) then shouldn't the 4th branch of government do the same?
SeeClickFix is one way for the media to play in the Gov20 space and strengthen their original charge as the 4th branch of gov.
Our Partner Doug Hardy, at the Journal Inquirer, has been using a SeeClickFix Pro account to acknowledge and track issues in the Hartford, CT region. Not only does the Journal Inquirer embed the SeeClickFix map, but Doug also follows up on issues himself and makes sure that they are being listened to by officials.
The Journal Inquirer introduced SeeClickFix to much of the Hartford region adding a layer of accountability to local gov that previously did not exist. Doug now uses the citizen reports to scoop stories on issues like traffic safety and other community concerns.
This kind of accountability has more back-up than a pen and a delivery route though. Doug's new posse is a crowd of users that can speak and vote publicly on the issues he is reporting. Doug can not only report on the issue but he can display the raw data of citizen voices on SeeClickFix.
In East Hartford, CT it appears that this new form of accountability is quite effective at creating fixes. Doug was kind enough to let me post his article on East Hartford and SeeClickFix below.
This is a true testimony to the magic of a system that allows for open communication and collaborative problem solving around public concerns. You can really see how media, industry, government and private citizens can work together to improve their communities:
SEECLICKFIX: Problems getting solved in East Hartford
By Doug Hardy
Published: Monday, October 26, 2009 11:52 AM EDT
Some good things have been happening as a result of your reports on the SeeClickFix portion of the Journal Inquirer’s Web site. Three issues have been solved recently in East Hartford, where Mayor Melody A. Currey and public works personnel have taken an active approach and decided to monitor SeeClickFix for your reports. This is a good thing for everyone, as you’ll see below.
“EH Citizen” reported that there has been a deer crossing sign covered in graffiti for more than five years on Oak Street near Farnham Drive.
“It’s an eyesore and you can’t even see the photo on the sign in an area where deer often cross to access Porter Brook. Is this fixable?” EH Citizen wrote, adding that the town had been notified years ago but the sign had yet to be scrubbed clean or replaced.
Fortunately, the East Hartford Public Works Department has built its own watch area on SeeClickFix -- which you also can do for free if you want to get involved in solving problems in your community. Within 15 days of reporting the graffiti online, EH Citizen returned and posted this message: “Thanks so much this issue has been fixed. The sign was replaced and looks great now! Thank you!”
You can thank East Hartford for being on the ball. We didn’t need to ask on your behalf. Meanwhile, across town at Main Street and Silver Lane, the pedestrian crossing signal was reported to be too fast, leaving slow-moving folks at risk.
“For pedestrians and bicyclists crossing Main Street at Silver Lane, the time from when the icon turns white and the audible beep starts is barely 10 seconds,” ROC wrote. “This is a wide street, and even on a bike you barely make it. This traffic light should be lengthened so people can cross without fearing for their lives. It’s called a crosswalk for a reason, should favor the crosser.”
After suggesting that the state Department of Transportation be contacted directly, within about a month ROC reported that the signal time had been lengthened appropriately. Kudos for your effort, ROC.
A third issue that was closed in East Hartford was reported by Bob Hobbs -- a dead tree was menacing the power lines on Bodwell Road near Burnside Avenue. He provided a photo. Hobbs posted the issue directly on East Hartford’s Web site -- which is always advisable if you want anything to get done -- and got a response from Public Works Director Billy G. Taylor:
“The tree is privately owned,” Taylor wrote. “Consequently, the town cannot simply lawfully remove it. Under authority given to me by town ordinances, I sent a letter to the owner of record ordering the tree’s removal. The letter has just been returned by the USPS marked ‘undeliverable.’ Having never removed a tree on private property without delivering the owner the notice required by ordinance, I do not know what authority I have to remove it. In any case, the Public Works budget is insufficient to allow removal of trees on private property and I do not have the authority under the town charter to overexpend the budget.”
So no progress there. Town records list three names on the property card, but I was told all three were renters.
Then we got some help from Jon Searles, an East Hartford resident whose brainflation.wordpress.com blog describes him as both a concerned citizen and chairman of the 6th District Committee of the East Hartford Republican Town Committee. He also is a Town Council candidate in the municipal election.
Searles either reported the tree directly to Connecticut Light & Power himself or he found an existing report. He provided a report number for CL&P’s Web site, and we then found that the utility company visited in September and noted that the tree was “overhanging the lines,” But the report then said, “RESOLUTION -- No Trouble Found.”
Based on that, it didn’t look like CL&P was going to take action.
But about two weeks ago -- and after more than 20 comments and e-mails between residents, town officials, and myself -- Hobbs reported that the tree had been cut back and the lines were no longer threatened.
Somone had taken it upon themselves to chop off the top of the dead tree. Whoever you are, thanks for helping to improve the community.
Doug Hardy is an associate editor of the Journal Inquirer. He can be reached at dhardy (at)journalinquirer.com or 860-646-0500, ext. 305.
- Show quoted text -
Wednesday, October 28, 2009 - By Ben Berkowitz - No comments
If Government is going to go open, crowd-sourced and platform (or Gov20 as SeeClickFix sees it) then shouldn't the 4th branch of government do the same?
Monday, October 26, 2009 - By Ben Berkowitz - No comments
Our partners at the City Fix have been doing a great job at helping to create watch areas for elected officials in DC. They find the emails and let the elected officials know how SeeClickFix can better help connect them. When issues are reported by citizens elected neighborhood leaders can support them and give them more information.
We have created some easy-to-use tools but it takes groups like the City Fix getting their hands dirty to get people to use them. We think they're doing a great job and are excited to see what the citizens think in DC.
Article here: http://dc.thecityfix.com/seeclickfix-dc-more-responsive-government-at-your-fingertips/
Thursday, October 22, 2009 - By Ben Berkowitz - 1 comment
A tool for everyone else.
Every neighborhood has them. The guys and gals that are willing to walk the street at night and keep an eye on things. The people that have the the time to show up to community meetings.
For all of those people who care about their neighborhood but don't have the time to get beyond their computer screen...SeeClickFix.
This Week Dawn Richards is starting to get the Pompano Beach Association started on SeeClickFix. The first issue reported in her neighborhood as already received a response from Florida DOT.
Here's the message that Dawn sent out to her community group about this new tool for those in her hood who want to help out but don't have much time:
About a month ago, the Sun-Sentinel published a column about all the ways that we can harness the power of social media to make a difference in our communities. I checked out one of the sites, called “SeeClickFix.com.”
It’s pretty interesting. I’ve set up a “Watch Area” for the East Pompano Civic Association here. I’d love for you to take a quick look and let me know your thoughts.
This way, while Captain Jack and his intrepid band of crimefighters patrol our streets, those of us with young children (and other pressing obligations J) can now remain fixed in front of our screens, but instead of wasting hours on Facebook we can be making a difference – without moving a muscle except to enter text!
East Pompano Civic Association
New COMPACT SeeClickFix Text Widget - Cute enough to fit on your homepage. Still strong enough to fix a pothole!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - By Ben Berkowitz - No comments
AS requested by our Media Partners we have released a text equivalent and partner to the SeeClickFix map widget. Today that widget is live and free to generate at http://www.seeclickfix.com/widget
The text widget condenses down to 200px wide so it fits nicely on a homepage in a sidebar. Don't worry, despite its small size this little guy is still tremendously efficient at getting things fixed and generating and displaying interesting local community concerns.
The text widget also works well with its big sister the map widget and can be linked to that page already embedded in your site.
Now when users report issues on SeeClickFix in an area or in your widget they can be displayed easily on the front page of your news site. Users can vote right from the text widget with their email to support the issue or report an issue right from the text widget.
Both widgets can be downloaded from http://www.seeclickfix.com
If you want an ad-free text widget please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org about our rev. share agreement.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - By Ben Berkowitz - No comments
On the same day that floods of Vehicle Idling Complaints started coming into SeeClickFix Philly 311 started acknowledging issues using SeeClickFix Pro.
A non-profit, Clean Air Council and a City Government acting on the same platform to help fix up the public space.
Tim O'Reilly has been talking a lot about Government acting more like a platform than an institution. This is a great example:
- Philly 311 was one of the first Governments to respond quickly to SeeClickFix issues and as a result lent credibility to the tool in Philly.
- That credibility helps to encourage organizations like the Clean Air Council to get its base to get involved in reporting and speaking up for Clean Air in Philadelphia.
- As a result Philly 311 does not need to receive the alerts on idling (their watch area filter has -idling which excludes alerts on idling) because the Clean Air Council is collecting and Quantifying that data instead. Aside from the Clean Air council sending notices of the public documentations to private companies who's drivers are at fault they will be preparing a report of "hot spots" to be addressed by inspectors.
-The media has not fallen short in their responsibility either and Philly.Com displays a map of these issues helping to expose not only the potholes they originally asked readers to post but also the idling vehicle complaints and other community concerns helping to expose them to the a greater whole.
-There are also neighborhood groups that are starting to form watch areas on SeeClickFix such as Logan Square, Society Hill and Washington Square as well as the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition and Various City Council
While there are many SeeClickFix communities that are thriving with much less government involvement, Philadelphia 311 proves that engaging citizens in Governance can lead to a better community. I should also mention that it takes much more than a website to connect communities in the real world and a lot of the good things that are happening in Philly are do in part to people like Rob Stuart (SeeClickFix Sideclick extordinaire) who has been connecting people and letting them know about the new tool.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009 - By Ben Berkowitz - No comments
We've always loved Good Magazine and have been crossing our fingers for a story. Zach Frechette wrote a nice post about us here: http://www.good.is/post/online-community-improvement-tool-launches-in-25000-markets/
Recent events have placed SeeClickFix and Good in similar locations and we hope to have more interactions with this excellent publication.
Monday, October 12, 2009 - By Ben Berkowitz - No comments
"Are you concerned about the Digital Divide?"
This question is asked every time a new piece of socially enabling technology enters the hands of tech savvy early adapters. The question becomes even more likely when the technology stands to replace existing systems.
As people start to see SeeClickFix as a viable, powerful and healthy alternative for communicating with our leaders we get asked this question more and more.
We anticipated this question early on and responded by providing a phone number: 877.853.1552.
Here's an update: Hardly anyone calls the phone number but we still see reporting across diverse economic communities via the web.
This is my gut un-researched answer as to why this might be happening: Our country has been plagued with a participatory divide long before we were plagued with a digital divide and SeeClickFix might have unlocked some potential solutions to the original problem with a simple principle: If you make it easier to engage and give a reason to engage more people will engage. The Internet provides more places to connect not less and SeeClickFix gives a reason to engage: you can get something that is bothering you fixed.
The question of the digital divide is one of access. It is presumed that there was previous accessibility that will be removed from certain communities once technology is introduced. When it comes to engaging with our leaders, technology can create greater accessibility no matter where you live in the US.
The Internet is readily available in schools, libraries and in many homes where you would not expect it. I would guess that the majority of people can more easily get to the Internet than City Hall or the community Meeting down the block.
What many Americans do not have is time. Multiple Jobs and Children make it so most do not have time to make it to city hall or community meetings so decisions are left to the few that do. This does not just include poor families struggling to get by but women or men who can not get away from their children or the careers they are trying to keep. Some are excluded simply because of their age because its presumed that public forums and voting are not for children. When you expose a tool like SeeClickFix to a community through existing universal channels it makes sense that you would see engagement where it was previously not seen. Even if Internet use in that area is not prolific, you are engaging more people because you are doing it on their own time.
Bring City Hall and the Community meetings to the people on their time and the people will attend. Community leaders should not be afraid to use computers as a policy for engaging and connecting citizens because a fraction might not have access. We may not be reaching the whole pie but we're getting a much bigger slice. And the more neighbors we can reach the more unreachable neighbors we can reach through them. Not every community member needs to have access to represent the needs of a community. All you need it one child with access to a computer and they can voice a family's concerns.
So now to answer the harder question: If access is granted, will you participate?
We believe that the answer is yes but we have to capture that participation and the energy of participation where its most likely to occur. People show up to community meetings when the topic effects them personally and likely when they are upset. We chose to build SeeClickFix in this spirit because we believe that the average person is most engaged when they want something fixed or improved. Yes we are encouraging people to complain because we believe that complaining can lead to bigger things. There is energy in complaining and if there is energy then there can be positive energy even if its starts negatively.
When people complain they are speaking up and when they speak up they are engaging.
People vote when they want change. Why can't that emotion be captured everyday at the report of a pothole or bigger requests to improve a community?
Sunday, October 11, 2009 - By Ben Berkowitz - No comments
A few people have told us that they have seen the SeeClickFix iPhone app crash.
I just started experiencing this as well when I upgraded to apple os 3.1.
It appears that this OS is creating many problems for apple as documented on their site.
I just upgraded to the new os 3.2 and am not experiencing difficulty.
Please do the same and let us know if the problem has been solved.
- By Ben Berkowitz - No comments
The past few months I have traveled to five conferences that are all helping to blend citizen and government responsibility.
The First conference was PDF in NYC put on by Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifrey. Earlier in the month it was Grand Rapids for VeloCity put on by Carol Coletta and DC for Gov20 put on by O'Reilly and Co. This week was split between NYC and DC for the Open Cities Conference, put on by Next American City, and Walk21, put on by NYCDOT.
The conferences were a mix of a meta conversations on how citizens might be using new media to improve cities (GOV20 and Open Cities) and grassroots conversations filled with groups that are using these new tools (veloCITY and Walk21) to improve cities. As keepers of a global tool for very local communities all events were valuable places for SeeClickFix to participate.
All conferences were evenly filled with Government Officials (many from the Obama Camp as well as local gov.), Media, Community Groups, non-profits and Private Businesses all looking to improve the public space and the way we interact with government.
What I've taken from all of these events is that like any good unification there are allies on both sides of the line looking to engage. And, as Bill Schrier City of Seatle - CIO, said at Open Cities "You have to find your allies."
The way that the Obama camp finds its allies is by attending events like this and making sure to end their speeches with statements like "you need to tell us how to improve" or simply, "please help us!" leaving the crowd with an understanding that communication and assistance goes both ways and the doors are open.
For groups like SeeClickFix its easy to find allies at conferences like this but finding them is only a first step. Finding out why they are our allies is what proves most valuable and the reason why we are there.
Here's a good example: When we first started pitching government on SCF we talked accountability and transparency. From events like these we've learned that accountability and transparency are stronger points for Citizens.
For our allies in government cost savings and aligning with engaged citizens are better speaking points.
Answering Questions like these will go much further towards accountability and transparency than speaking just to those points:
-How can you get a citizen to be involved in the process and possibly reduce overhead?
-How do you get a citizen to be more involved in their government so they better understand the burden?
-How do you get broader groups of citizens more communicative so that governments can make more educated decisions?
-How do we engage citizens from all walks of life when there is currently a dramatic participation gap in the US (much more real than the digital divide in personal opinion).
We think that SeeClickFix answers all of these questions and can allow communities to identify their allies at the local level where change is most needed and most likely to occur. 100's of new public officials are receiving updates this week from SeeClickFix issues in their community as a result of the new website and the ease of creating watch areas from existing town boundaries. If history repeats many of the civic allies in those communities will start to show themselves on SeeClickFix will start working to improve their communities together.
With SeeClickFix we are even seeing some government allies use the tool as private citizens to escape the restraints of bureaucracy and force change from the outside.
Can you use tools like SeeClickFix to find allies in your community? We think so.
- By Ben Berkowitz - No comments
Today we launched ads on SeeClickFix.
We've always believed that SeeClickFix can provide free to nearly free solutions for communities and their governments and we expect that hyper-local ad revenue will help sustain that model.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - By Miles - No comments
We've been busy at SeeClickFix and are pleased to announce a bunch of new features. Ben is speaking today at a conference put together by The Rockefeller Foundation and Next American City (Open Cities: New Media’s Role in Shaping Urban Policy) and we couldn't think of better timing to share the good news. He'll be talking about this stuff there, but we want to give you, our loyal users, first crack at it.
The big news is that we've made it really easy to take ownership of your town. With preloaded boundaries, you can set up email alerts for your public official in seconds. In the first 24 hours 100s of new towns have been signed up. Is your town SeeClickFix'ed? Go find an email for your public official and sign them up.
More on recent features:
25,000+ Town Boundaries. We have loaded over 25,000 cities and towns into our database so that SeeClickFix automatically knows the boundaries of Plano, TX and Philadelphia, PA. We've used US Census and other data sources for the United States. We have the framework for adding other international jurisdictions so let us know which ones you want.
8,000+ Neighborhoods. We also loaded over 8,000 neighborhoods into our database so that SeeClickFix automatically knows the boundaries. For example, Philly's Fairmont Spring Garden. We have always allowed users to create public or personal watch areas. Now we have an engine for importing these datasets.
Alerts Going to 100's of Public Officials. With the help of volunteers and users, we now have email alerts going to public officials for 100's of watch areas. More are being added every day - you can do it, too.
Easier to Create Watch Areas. Using the database of town and neighborhood boundaries, it's a snap to create watch areas. If you know the email address of someone responsible for your neighborhood, it takes 30 seconds to make sure they'll get alerts about issues on SeeClickFix. Go ahead.
Following a Watch Area. If you're a citizen who is interested in following along with what public officials are hearing it is easier than ever. Just click follow under the name of your town and enter your email address.
User Friendly. Based on feedback, we've made the site even more user friendly. Particularly for the first time user. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Upgraded iPhone App. your town now has it's own iPhone app [iTunes]. Not only can you report issues but you can see issues nearby and vote to have them fixed.
Upgraded Widgets. If you want SeeClickFix features embedded in your website, you can have a text-based or map-based widget.
How it Works. You can read more about how it works. It could help you explain SeeClickFix to your friends and neighbors.
Civic Points. And in case you missed it, we rolled out user logins with Facebook connect so you can earn civic points. We've already seen some people start racking up the points and it's been surprisingly fun to be involved in your community.
Top Users. If you are using your Facebook log-in or SeeClickFix Pro Account you can set your hometown or neighborhood. If you are doing a lot of clicking a fixing and earning civic points you'll be displayed as a top user on your neighborhood or city homepage.
Reminder: SeeClickFix is a tool for communities to help themselves.
Citizens use SeeClickFix to
* find out what issues have been reported in your neighborhood and to
* report an issue.
Community groups or governments, use SeeClickFix to:
* track and prioritize issues of concern to your citizens and to
* receive email and RSS alerts on issues reported by your constituents
Media organizations, use SeeClickFix to
* generate local news content for your readers and to
* build a conversation around community issues
Don't worry, we've got more on the way. Let us know what you want and we'll keep building it.
Monday, October 5, 2009 - By Ben Berkowitz - No comments
The period between October 1 and May 31 is designated as Heat Season. During this time, the City requires building owners to provide tenants with heat according to the following rules:
* Between the hours of 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM, if the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees, the inside temperature must be at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
* Between the hours of 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM, if the temperature outside falls below 40 degrees, the inside temperature must be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
HeatWatchNYC is taking reports on their website: http://heatwatchnyc.org using the SeeClickFix widget.
While there's no reports yet (we're having a nice fall here up East) it will be interesting to see how this group uses SeeClickFix to advocate for tenant rights.
Thursday, October 1, 2009 - By Ben Berkowitz - 1 comment
It may not be the bolt bus and it may not be service from New Haven to New York. It doesn't even have wireless or is necessarily as cheap or as comfortable but one thing is for sure: click and someone listening might fix.
The Bolt Bus issue on SeeClickfix was opened a few months ago in New Haven requesting service to New York. Immediately in the comments of the issue many argued that a New Haven to Boston Route was much more needed. Others argued that it did not have to be Bolt Bus.
The City and City Council both got behind the effort and pushed for a bus route as well.
Enter Transit Azumah (The Fix?) Azumah is a small private operator who heard the call of the the hundreds of SeeClickFixers asking for a bus route. He will be starting a new bus route in November just on weekends from New Haven to New York. It may not have been the fix that the original clicker wanted (full disclosure: it was me) but it was the fix that the community wanted.
I'll stay optimistic that Azumah will make the upgrades that make Bolt Bus attractive and hope that he has success with his pilot and expands to weekdays and routes South. issue 7425 will stay open until the original need is served or proven unnecessary
Whether you're speaking up to get a pothole fixed or speaking up to get better transportation options there's a platform to help you get the word out.
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